Little Magazines By Drouin, Jeffrey; Huculak, J. Matthew
In the history of modernism, little magazines were often the first venues to publish unknown authors who are now considered the leading lights of twentieth-century literature. A little magazine is a periodical dedicated primarily to serious literature, usually featuring poetry, short stories, serialized novels, and sometimes dramatic installments, as well as essays, reviews, and reader correspondence. They are called ‘little’ (sometimes also ‘small magazines’) owing to their cultivation of coterie contributorships and readerships in opposition to large commercial magazines whose content is strongly influenced by markets. As such, little magazines often prize experimental content that contravenes the public taste, which is one reason they were the primary vehicles for the development of modernism, its many movements, and their niche audiences. In many cases, the lack of a robust commercial apparatus meant that little magazines tended to be irregularly published and short lived, but with outsized contributions to literature and culture, such as the simultaneous serialization of James Joyce’s Ulysses in The Little Review (1914–29) and The Egoist (1914–19) and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in The Dial (1920–29) and The Criterion (1922–39).
Little magazines originated during the nineteenth century on the European continent, in Great Britain, and in the United States. During the twentieth century, most little magazines” innovative agendae began as a reaction against the rise of large commercial periodicals that sold issues below cost in order to boost circulation, gaining more profit by selling advertising space.